As Marcus Stoinis has started to come to terms with a devastating personal tragedy, he says the support of his cricketing family has helped to give his performances on the field a whole new meaning.
And he says Melbourne Stars teammate and former England captain Kevin Pietersen has been an important ally as he’s juggled an unspeakable emotional toll with a blossoming international career.
Cricket has understandably been a secondary concern for Stoinis since he first learned his father Chris had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and even more so in November when Chris passed away at the age of 60.
Speaking to cricket.com.au last month, Stoinis said former Victorian teammate Peter Handscomb (who lost his father in 2015) and WA coach Justin Langer (whose mother recently passed away) have provided invaluable support and comfort.
Having played on both sides of the country domestically, and having been a part of international squads in all three forms of the game, Stoinis has come to cherish the extensive support network he’s had to fall back on.
“I’ve realised that (cricket) is a family for me,” the 28-year-old said on Friday.
“When I found out about Dad, I had (Australia and Stars teammate) Adam Zampa there sitting on the boundary with me and we sat there for about half-an-hour. And I’m sharing these games with him now. We stand next to each other every national anthem.
“I’ve got some bloody good friends and I’m just having fun doing it.
“My perspective has changed, for sure. Obviously the experiences you go through change your perspective as you go through life.
“Cricket for me is quite a lot more enjoyable than it has been in the past. I probably have been in a rush for a number of reasons to get things done in cricket, but at the moment it’s become a lot more fun.”
And he says Pietersen, an enigmatic and divisive character during a brilliant and at-time controversial playing career, has been a valuable sounding board as his career has taken a step forward into the international fold.
“He’s been unbelievably generous with his time and he hasn’t needed to be,” Stoinis said of the Englishman, with whom he’s shared four BBL seasons at the Stars.
“That’s been over the last 12 months, we’ve built a stronger relationship and had continual conversations about cricket and about perspective.
“He’s been through everything from the back page to the front page of the paper. And just approaching the game, he’s a smart cricketer and there’s a reason why he’s as good as he is. He’s been good for me.
“I don’t know if not taking it too seriously is the right way (to describe it), but it’s more just understanding that you’re there to enjoy it and you’re there to perform as well as you can in front of some unbelievable crowds.
“And you get opportunities that so many people are dreaming of and that you’ve been dreaming of for a long time. So once you get there you’ve got to remember to enjoy that.”
It’s a fresh perspective on the game that helped Stoinis burst into Australia’s one-day team 12 months ago, and move him to the verge of an Ashes call-up earlier this summer.
A Test tour of South Africa looms, but his more immediate focus is this month’s ODI series against England and establishing himself as a crucial plank in Australia’s World Cup defence next year.
“I’m hoping I’m playing and hoping I’ll bat in the middle order,” Stoinis said ahead of Sunday’s series opener at the MCG.
“Finding a consistent playing group will be number one, and understandably we’re building towards a World Cup so trying to find the right mix and getting players playing the right role that suits their game and suits the team.
“As much as you want to win every game, I think they’re building towards a bigger picture. But I think it’s probably time to start narrowing the focus.
“I’m just ready to play.”
2017-18 International Fixtures
Gillette ODI Series v England
Australia ODI squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Cameron White, Adam Zampa.
England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets
Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets
Prime Minister’s XI
PM’s XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets
Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
England T20 squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood.
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets
Second T20I Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets
Third T20I Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets
Fourth T20I NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final TBC, Eden Park, February 21